Tom Clyde: Brigham Young would have kept going if he’d known about traffic on S.R. 248
We paused this week to observe Pioneer Day. It is the celebration of Brigham Young’s arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, and the establishment of the Mormon settlement on land then owned by Mexico. A few years later, the United States stole California from Mexico, and Utah was part of the deal. It’s a fascinating history, and what was accomplished in Young’s colonization of the deserts of Utah is remarkable.
In southern Idaho, they observed Pioneer Day with an unusual invasion of Mormon crickets. Swarms of crickets have covered buildings, devoured crops, and generally grossed people out in areas where they have not been common before. Nobody seems to know what to make of it. It’s not as weird as finding alligators in Chicago (which happened this week), but Mormon crickets in that part of Idaho are unusual.
I read about the Mormon cricket invasion on KSL’s website. I could tell that they were having a difficult time with the story. The leadership of the church formerly known as Mormon has been quite insistent that they no longer want people to use the term “Mormon.” The official name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they want that used instead of “Mormon.” But it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. A nine-word name doesn’t fit in a headline very well. So the change has been difficult, even for KSL, which is owned by the church.
KSL’S editors struggled with the term Mormon Pioneers, and were unclear what to call Mormon crickets. Are they crickets formerly known as Mormon? I suspect even Mormon crickets are not particularly religious. In the part of Idaho being plagued by the crickets, they raise a lot of barley that gets sold to brewers to make beer. Does that make them Jack Mormon crickets?
Historically, not even a plague of crickets sent the pioneers formerly known as Mormon packing. They toughed it out through very difficult conditions, building towns in places that seemed uninhabitable. Brigham Young said they would make the desert blossom like the rose. It’s beginning to look like the weeds got the best of it in a lot of ways, and we are growing at a rate that stretches the notion of sustainability. In fact, if Brigham Young had known how bad the traffic would be on S.R. 248, he would have kept moving.
Park City and Summit County adopted a resolution opposing UDOT’s planned fix for S.R. 248. The UDOT proposal is an industrial strength, five-lane beast with additional pavement width for stacking left turn traffic. It’s massive and ugly. It seems like there are gentler alternatives, but UDOT is looking at growth projections in the area, and seems to think that they were being conservative with the proposal. Engineers armed with data are a dangerous bunch. A city/county resolution says that the UDOT plan is “not in alignment with current City and County goals, policies, and objectives.” They asked UDOT to work with them to find a “scalable, multi-modal project that addresses highway, bicycle, and transit modes that fit the local context and character of Park City’s natural and human environment.” La-dee-dah.
Well, that’s perfectly clear. On the one hand, we have detailed, data-based design drawings from UDOT, and on the other, we have aligned, scalable multi-modal fuzzy-bunnies. I don’t like the UDOT plan. It seems extreme. But something has to be done. The situation is life threatening. The off-ramps from U.S. 40 back up into the traffic lanes, with the result that people are at a dead stop on a freeway with 70 mph traffic coming up behind them. Somebody is going to die. Of course, if it happens in a scalable, multi-modal manner, aligned with the local context, maybe it’s OK.
The city’s $420,000 consultant on the park-and-ride lot at U.S. 40 has another year to study the situation. The city and county want a “transit oriented solution.” You can’t say “bus” for some reason. They mean park and ride. But there is no actual plan that explains how several thousand workers and skiers, all arriving at about the same time, are going to magically fit on the same bus. Nobody has explained where we are going to get 25 or 50 buses needed to handle the peak load, or the drivers to operate them, or pay for any of it.
The problem isn’t new. Generalities like “scalable, multi-modal” solutions are several years too late to contribute anything to the discussion, whether inside or outside the box. If Park City has a solution, roll out the plans. The UDOT solution seems brutal, but it’s real. Magical thinking about multi-modal solutions is not. Where do we park, where do we catch the bus, and how long do we wait for it? Show me how it works.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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